By Nadia James-Harris
ROAD TOWN, BVI -- People who have been working in the British Virgin Islands for five years and are changing employers will no longer be required to leave the territory during the transitioning process.
Beginning September 1, changes made to the Immigration and Passport Regulations will allow the chief immigration officer to grant a permit for persons to remain in the territory for the purpose of seeking employment.
Acting chief immigration officer Ian Penn stated, “The amendments to the Immigration and Passport Ordinance allow persons who are changing employers to obtain permission from the chief immigration officer to remain in the territory and seek further employment.”
Acting Chief Immigration Officer, Ian Penn
Penn added that only persons who have worked in the territory for a period of five years would ordinarily qualify. The cost for the permit to remain in the territory while seeking further employment will be $250 and only one application during a five-year period will be considered.
Penn said persons who have held entry permits for one to four years will not be considered unless they can demonstrate exceptional circumstances where the amendment may apply. He noted that there are a number of considerations that fall within the remit of ‘exceptional circumstances’.
These include: persons who are married to a belonger; persons with work permit exemption status; persons who have been laid off because the employer is renovating; persons who have invested or contributed in some meaningful way to the territory within the stated period; persons affected by poor working conditions, with supporting evidence provided; and persons who may have been subject to verbal and sexual abuse in the work place, with supporting evidence provided.
The acting chief immigration officer said each exceptional circumstance will be handled on a case by case basis, and a thorough investigation will be conducted before a decision is made as to whether a person qualifies or disqualifies. All decisions will be communicated to the individual within one week from the date the matter was logged with the immigration department.
Also amended under Section 31 is change of status granting permission to spouses and dependents who have resided in the territory for at least three years without being employed, to change their immigration status to seek employment. The cost for the change of status permit is $250.
Premier and minister of finance, Dr Orlando Smith, who also holds the portfolio for immigration, brought the Bill for the amendments to the Immigration and Passport Ordinance to the House of Assembly on April 20.
The immigration department is responsible for ensuring that all persons entering the territory qualify as desirable visitors. Additionally, the department ensures that individuals’ residency, employment and business activities are monitored, regulated and controlled, while providing professional and courteous services.